Norway’s “tax list” is now released
What the public tax information does and doesn’t tell you
Dec. 8 was “tax day” in Norway—the day when everyone’s tax returns became open for everyone else to see, whether they’re a billionaire, a celebrity, or even the prime minister.
In a practice that might seem outlandish in other countries, Norway publishes the tax records of every individual in the country every year.
Norway has long published tax returns, and since 2001, the information has been available as an online database on the website of the Norwegian Tax Administration (Skatteetaten). This year’s publication has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic; it is usually released in November.
According to the tax agency, the Norwegian state received NOK 637 billion in taxes in 2019 from 4.9 million individuals and 345,000 companies.The biggest news from the year’s list, as reported by most media outlets in the country, is that 27-year-old Gustav Magnar Witzøe has displaced Kjell Inge Røkke as Norway’s wealthiest person.
According to the tax list, Witzøe became Norway’s youngest billionaire (measured in Norwegian kroner) in 2011, after inheriting most of his father’s shares in investment firm Kverva. He is now the country’s highest taxpayer, with NOK 235 million paid taxes.
Witzøe’s wealth totals over NOK 20.9 billion, surpassing that of fisheries magnate Røkke, who is worth NOK 19.4 billion.
As well as wealth and taxes paid over the last year, the published tax information can also be searched to see how much Norwegian taxpayers earned during the last year.
Business owner and philanthropist Trond Mohn was Norway’s highest earner last year, with an income of NOK 443 million. Mohn was also the second-highest taxpayer. Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær had the country’s 11th-highest income last year, at NOK 108 million.
What information is included on the list?
Information, including name, year of birth, and tax municipality can be seen on the open tax list, along with net income, net wealth, and the amount of tax paid. It is not possible to hide one’s information from the tax list that is published by the Norwegian Tax Administration nor the summary sent to the media.
What doesn’t the list tell us?
Some factors can result in information being withheld from the list. These include if the information can reveal a confidential client relationship; and people whose addresses are legally unlisted on the public register (Folkeregisteret).
Also not included is information on people with no fixed address, people younger than 17, and deceased persons.
But the tax list may come with a few caveats: the list shows net incomes with all tax deductions taken into account. People who have large outstanding loans can appear to have a lower income on the tax list than their actual gross income would predict.
Other deductions applied to the income information include the minimum deduction (minstefradrag), which is designed to cover standard expenses connected to employment, deductions for families, and deductions for losses made from sales of property or shares.
As such, it is possible to have a high actual income, while the tax list shows a lower income.
Similarly, the figures given for personal wealth may not be completely accurate, because a home, for example, may be given a lower value for tax purposes than its real value. As such, someone who owns an expensive home may be worth more than their “personal wealth” shown on the tax list.
If someone has a large debt, this will bededucted from their net wealth.
The numbers are based on preliminary tax figures from the Norwegian Tax Administration.
How can you search for people’s incomes in Norway?
If you are a Norwegian resident, you can search the tax lists at www.skatteetaten.no/person/skatt/skatteoppgjor/skattelistene, simply by logging on with your national MinID (anelectroniclogin system ID used to secure a range of internet services in the Norwegian public sector) or BankID code.
According to the tax agency, there were 1.6 million searches on its database in 2018, showing that Norwegians continue to be curious about what other people earn.
This is, however, only about a tenth of the number of searches on the site before 2014, when the tax authority started to allow people to find out who had been searching for their tax information. The decrease is credited to a general reluctance among Norwegians to appear too nosy and intrusive.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 25, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.